A new collective bargaining agreement appears to be on the way, perhaps in days or even hours. Once a handshake deal is in place, things will move quickly, from free agency to training camp to the preseason. For the Bears, that means a date with the Rams in Canton, Ohio, on August 7 to compete in the Hall of Fame Game.
There had been some speculation in recent weeks that, depending on when the lockout ended, the Hall of Fame Game would have to be cancelled. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said Thursday that he would need just a day to prepare his team for the game. Maybe a tad optimistic, but his point was that the preseason is about starters knocking the rust off and fringe players trying to make the roster; there aren't extensive game-planning sessions.
On Friday, head coach Lovie Smith spoke about the possibility of his team playing in the Hall of Fame Game.
"If an agreement gets done and the NFL says we’re going to play the game, we’ll be ready," Smith said, according to the Chicago-Tribune. "Right now, we haven’t been told that anything has been cancelled."
As for how long the Bears will need, Smith didn't share Martz's confidence on a one-day turnaround.
"Just the way the NFL is set up: 15 days before the first game,’’ he said. "That’s what you want. That’s what it’s been every year. But this is a different year. If the NFL says we’re going to play a game and the Rams are dealing with the same thing, we’re going to get ready."
Whatever happens, and however many practices the Bears have prior to their first preseason game, this much is certain: the 2011 NFL season is as close as its ever been, which means that we won't hear the word lockout for at least another decade.